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Cool That Hot Flash With Hypnotic Imagery

Hot flashes of breast cancer survivors can be reduced in intensity and frequency by up to 68% with hypnosis. [Elkins, 2007 and 2008].

Especially when they use cooling imagery, according to a more recent study in which researchers asked such women to choose specific cooling imagery to be combined with their hypnosis session. Some of the chosen images were of places the women had actually been to, others were of a more general nature.

To alleviate their hot flashes the women in the experiment chose images of:

  • water 27 %
  • air/wind 17.6%
  • cool mountains 16.2%
  • trees/leaves/forest 11.5%
  • snow 6.8%
  • other 20.9%

The water images were of cold showers or rain or waterfalls. (I wonder if colorful waterfalls were imagined -- in my practice rainbow-colored water pouring over and "through" a client is a powerful way to cleanse the person of negative emotions such as guilt and resentment).

It fascinates me that water imagery was chosen by over a quarter of the women in this study [Elkins, 2008]. That would be counterintuitive for many of my clients who were sexually abused as children because such abuse customarily started in the bathtub. For them, water is a frightening image, not a comforting one.

Over 20 years ago [Farah 1984] it was discovered that the same areas of the brain are activated by imagining something as actually experiencing an event or place.

This is, of course one reason that hypnotherapy is such a powerful agent of change. And why, as the authors speculate, the women felt a renewed sense of control as they actually felt cooler.

The most effective images are those created by clients themselves rather than ones chosen by the therapist [Turkoski and Lance, 1996].


Elkins, G., et al. (2010). Preferences for Hypnotic Imagery for Hot-Flash Reduction: A Brief Communication. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 58(3), 345-349.
Elkins, G., et al. (2008). Randomized trial of a hypnosis intervention for treatment of hot flashes among breast cancer survivors, Journal of Clinical Oncology, 26, 5022-5026.
Elkins, G., et al. (2007). Pilot evaluation of hypnosis for the treatment of hot flashes in breast cancer survivors. Psycho-Oncology,16, 487-492. Farah, M. (1984) The neurological basis of mental imagery: A componential analysis, Cognition, 18, 245-272.

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